Saturday Night Live: Jason Sudeikis as Joe Biden touches on risky territory

As Kit Harington hosted, the former VP seemed to get a pass on his behavior towards women that Trump did not. Cue outrage?

We open at Biden campaign headquarters. The former vice-president is made to undergo sensitivity training, in light of recent allegations of inappropriate behavior towards women.

As portrayed by Jason Sudeikis and the SNL writers, Joe Biden is an utterly oblivious doofus but also a harmless and even well-meaning guy. As he himself puts it: “I’m a hugger, I’m a kisser and a little bit of a sniffer, but the last thing I want to do is offend anyone.”

You can practically hear the performative outrage being born across op-eds and social media, as the show attempts to redirect attention to Donald Trump’s misconduct – “the guy that has actually bragged about assault on tape” – and the hypocrisy of his supporters: “Unlike his voters, your voters actually care.” A late joke about black women not giving a damn about Biden’s touchy-feely tendencies isn’t likely to go over well.

Still, Sudekis’s return is more than welcome, and it’s funnier than any recent cold open.

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington hosts. In his monologue, he takes the piss out of his spotty filmography, which includes such misfires as Pompeii – “Which somehow proved more of a disaster than the event it was based on” – and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. “Anyone a fan? No, I didn’t think so.” He fields questions from audience members, including an angry, spoiler-hungry fan (“Bitch, I didn’t come here for sketches – who wins Game of Thrones?”), co-stars Emilia Clarke and John Bradley and his own wife and former co-star Rose Leslie, who asks: “What are we going to do for money now? We didn’t save anything and you kept telling me, Oh, I’m the King of the North, we can order Uber Eats every night!”

Nephew Pageant is a Miss America-style competition that celebrates awkward teenage nephews. “Why celebrate nephews?” asks host Aunt Patty (Aidy Bryant). “Well, they’re fun little scamps and they’re not yours!” It’s a decently funny sketch, but it runs about a minute too long.

New HBO Shows is an ad for the barrage of “sequels, prequels, and spinoffs” viewers will be inundated with once Game of Thrones wraps up. These include the CW-like melodrama Castle Black, a Blues Clues-style kids show called Hodor’s House and more. The standouts are Arya, an animated show in the style of MTV’s cult classic Daria, and Game of Thrones: Special Victims Unit, featuring cameos from Mariska Hargitay and Ice Cube.

Next, Harington and Kenan Thompson play the leaders of a cruise-line Sinatra covers band. It’s clear to the audience they’re actually a Michael Jackson cover band (Harington is dressed exactly like the disgraced King of Pop and doing a high-pitched vocal impression) who’ve had to rebrand post-Leaving Neverland. It’s a very clever idea but the sketch is clunky and long.

The night’s musical guest, Sara Bareilles, performs Fire. Weekend Update opens with coverage of the allegations against Biden. Colin Jost makes fun of Biden’s miscalibrated statement: “It was supposed to be an apology, not a re-enactment.”

Film critic Terry Fink (Alex Moffat) joins to discuss the spring movie lineup. He’s managed to watch every single film thanks to “a new health trend called macro-dosing”. This, it turns out, involves taking massive quantities of LSD. His demented, confused reviews of films like Dumbo (“A terrifying journey through hell … just like an elephant, you’ll never forget its touching jihadist message!”) and A Star Is Born (“There’s nothing shallow about Bradley Cooper’s performance as a pockmarked speed freak trying to smooch me in a Penn Station stairwell – no thanks Dante!”) are hilarious. Hopefully this character returns.

After a quick turn from Thompson as Charles Barkley, Update wraps up. Surprisingly, there’s no mention of Che and Jost’s highly publicized participation in Sunday’s Wrestlemania.

Bachelorette Party has Harington as the fiancé who shows up promising a striptease, only to do an old-fashioned burlesque show. (“The art of slowly wearing less – burlesque!”) It was a foregone conclusion that SNL would find an excuse for its heartthrob host to show off his physique, but unlike previous examples (including earlier this season when fellow Thrones alumni Jason Momoa showed off the goods) the jokes don’t feel lazy. Thanks to a deranged turn from McKinnon as a double-cigarette smoking French instructor and a twisted revelation involving incest (appropriate given Harington’s character arc on GoT), this is the sketch of the night.

She's imperfect, but she tries. 🎶🇬🇧 #SNL

— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) April 7, 2019

Sara Barielles gets in on the fun, starring alongside Mckinnon’s Theresa May in a video for her song She Used to Be Mine. May dances out her frustration over the dismal state of her career and reputation. She ends up miraculously figuring out Brexit and saving Britain, before finding it’s all been a dream. Even with the last-minute twist, it’s a more sympathetic portrayal than the embattled PM deserves.

Graphics Department stars Harington, Beck Bennet and Kyle Mooney as painfully nerdy office workers whose commitment to fantasy role-playing annoys everyone else. It’s an annoying sketch itself, although an unexpected turn saves it. Then Barielles returns and performs Saint Honesty.

Exam has Harington playing a hospital patient nervously awaiting a rectal exam from a high-strung proctologist (Leslie Thompson) with extremely long fingernails. He eventually reveals he’s the hospital’s chief and they’re all on Undercover Boss. As with a number of closing sketches of late, this feels rushed and cut for time.

This episode was a mixed bag. With a few exceptions, the sketches didn’t quite live up to their promise. But Harington was a fun host and big-name guest stars gave it a much-needed boost of energy.


Zach Vasquez

The GuardianTramp

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